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PFT’s Week 14 picks

Bradie James

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James (56) celebrates in the closing minutes of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys won 34-14. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)


After 13 hard-fought weeks of pigskin prognostication, Rosenthal and yours truly remain in a dead heat.

Out of 192 games, we’ve each gotten 125 right and 67 wrong. Last week, we both finished with records of 11-5.

We need to come up with a good tiebreaker, in the event we finish Week 17 in a deadlock. Feel free to offer up your ideas for settling this one.

Then again, if Rosenthal continues to make picks like the picks he made this week, it won’t be necessary.

Colts at Titans

Florio’s take: Both teams are free falling. Only one of them has Peyton Manning. Though most non-Colts fans can’t seem to decide whether they want to see Manning not make it to the playoffs or lose when he gets there, the Colts will keep all of us in suspense for another week.

Florio’s pick: Colts 27, Titans 10.

Rosenthal’s take: You know the end of days are near in Naptown when the Colts radio broadcaster starts calling for Curtis Painter to replace Peyton Manning. (I don’t care if it was off air and he’s an emotional homer. That’s a fireable offense for sheer idiocy.) Colts fans will realize how good they have it when Manning still leads this banged-up team to the playoffs.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 27, Titans 23.

Browns at Bills

Florio’s take: The Bills became complacent once they knocked Brett Favre out of Sunday’s game against the Vikings and then returned a Tarvaris Jackson interception for a touchdown. And it’ll be hard for the Bills to snap out of their funk against a motivated Cleveland team that, even if it has no shot at making the playoffs, could still finish at .500 or better, which would almost certainly secure another season for coach Eric Mangini.

Florio’s pick: Browns 26, Bills 17.

Rosenthal’s take: The Browns are the best team with a losing record in football. They can win with a rookie quarterback or a veteran quarterback that makes rookie decisions. Despite a lack of stars, the defense is greater than the sum of its parts. Peyton Hillis is practically an MVP candidate. With a few more wins, Eric Mangini will make it impossible for Mike Holmgren to hire Mike Holmgren as the next Browns coach.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 19, Bills 16.

Packers at Lions

Florio’s take: If NFL games lasted only 30 minutes, the Lions would be in contention for a playoff berth. But this team isn’t ready to play 60 full minutes, and the Packers know that they can’t afford to stumble down the stretch, or they won’t make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Lions 17.

Rosenthal’s take: Packers fans have made case that this week’s game is no gimme. They said the same thing before the second Vikings game. The Packers specialize on brutalizing bad cornerbacks and the Lions’ group is awful. Detroit’s entire season can be summed up in Drew Stanton’s attempt at the “Dougie.” You admire the effort, but the kid came up short.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 34, Lions 21.

Giants at Vikings

Florio’s take: The Giants and Vikings continue their poor-man’s version of the Colts-Pats rivalry, meeting for the 11th time in 12 seasons. They’ve played in every year since 1999, with the exception of 2006. Minnesota has a four-game winning streak over the Giants, and they’re playing with the kind of confidence and looseness that previously was impossible under the weight of crippling expectations for 2010. Look for that to continue on Sunday, with or without Brett Favre under center.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 28, Giants 24.

Rosenthal’s take: The Vikings have beaten the Giants three years in a row. That includes a 41-17 win with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm in ’07 and a 44-7 beatdown in the season finale last year. I don’t know if it’s a matchup thing or a fluke. I do know the Giants pass rush could force Tarvaris back on the field in this game.

Rosenthal’s pick: Giants 30, Vikings 24.

Bengals at Steelers

Florio’s take: A week after a season-defining win, the Steelers face the ultimate trap game against a mediocre team desperate for relevance. What better way to obtain it than to go to Pittsburgh and knock the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North back into a tie with the Ravens? But a year after coach Mike Tomlin vowed to “unleash hell” in December, the Steelers are in the midst of doing it, and they didn’t scratch and claw against the Ravens in Baltimore only to fail to hold serve at home against a significantly inferior foe.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Charlie Batch was the Steelers quarterback the last time Pittsburgh put together back-to-back impressive games. Even coach Mike Tomlin admits the team relies on emotion and energy -- perhaps too much. Carson Palmer is quietly coming off an impressive performance. Based on the Bengals’ track record, they’ll make the Steelers sweat and then blow it late. (Translation: take the points.)

Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 24, Bengals 20.

Raiders at Jaguars

Florio’s take: Two unlikely playoff contenders face in, in essence, an elimination game. The Raiders are simply too inconsistent to be trusted to put together another good game, and the Jaguars have become surprisingly consistent.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 24, Raiders 10.

Rosenthal’s take: There is no figuring out the Raiders. Here’s my best theory -- they are frontrunners. Give them an early break (like the Darren Sproles fumble) and they play terrific with the lead. The running game and pass rush take over. If they fall behind early, quarterback shortcomings and old habits pop up. In the end, the Jaguars are a more consistent team. They are peaking at the right time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 21, Raiders 20.

Falcons at Panthers

Florio’s take: This game has “trap” tattooed on its forehead. If the Falcons weren’t scrambling to hold off the Saints, the NFC South leaders could indeed fall right into it. But the Falcons are too good and the Panthers are too bad and the stakes are too high for the most overlooked of the elite NFL teams in 2010.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Panthers 7.

Rosenthal’s take: Asked about his team’s second half meltdown in Seattle last week, Panthers coach John Fox said, “I don’t think our team’s results have been related to effort at all.” Translation: Our players stink. He’s right.

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 24, Panthers 13.

Buccaneers at Redskins

Florio’s take: The Bucs win the games they’re supposed to win, and they lose the games they’re supposed to lose. The Bucs are supposed to win this game. Therefore, under the complex logic that has defined their season, they will.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Redskins 17.

Rosenthal’s take: This looks like the swing game in Tampa’s season. Win one cold weather game, and they get tasty home matchups against the Seahawks and Lions. It’s very easy to see the Bucs head to the Superdome in Week 17 at 10-5. Washington, meanwhile, continues to play like it’s perpetually hung over.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bucs 20, Redskins 17.

Rams at Saints

Florio’s take: Though the Saints aren’t nearly as dominant as they were in 2009 (indeed, they’re not dominant at all), they know how to find a way to score points when they need to score points. And they’ll need to score points against the Rams, a former NFC West rival that is trying to find their way back to the postseason. Look for the Saints to continue to press the Falcons, even if the Saints need a late score to do it.

Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Rams 27.

Rosenthal’s take: Chris Ivory gives the Saints offense an a dimension they haven’t had since Deuce McAllister was in his prime. Ivory’s quick feet and amazing power for his size should help solve the Saints’ red zone woes, which will come in handy against a solid Rams defense. This week will show whether that defense is underrated or partly the product of an easy schedule.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, Rams 17.

Seahawks at 49ers

Florio’s take: The Niners are done and the Seahawks are trying to win the division and Alex Smith is back at quarterback and assistant head coach Johnnie Lynn has abruptly resigned and the Niners are poised to collapse down the stretch and next year at this time Mike Singletary could be dropping his pants in the locker room of a college campus near you.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, 49ers 10.

Rosenthal’s take: I’m oddly excited for this game. There’s something to be said for Mike Singletary and Alex Smith making one final stand or going down with the ship together. The 49ers’ playoffs start now. Win their three remaining division games and San Francisco has a legitimate shot to get in at 7-9. They’ll stay alive another week, if only to make the ending more painful later.

Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 27, Seahawks 24.

Patriots at Bears

Florio’s take: Several weeks ago, the Bears cooled off the red-hot Eagles in a game at Soldier Field. This time around, the opponent is much more formidable, with a quick-strike passing game that gladly will take what the Cover Two defense gives it. New England has rediscovered its 2007 vibe, without the pressure of having to remain unblemished.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 28, Bears 20.

Rosenthal’s take: On PFT Daily, I made the case this is a dangerous matchup for the Patriots. It’s a road game on a short week and the Bears’ defense is the rare group that can slow Tom Brady down. The Patriots don’t have the pass rush to truly expose Chicago’s offensive line. Then Florio put me on the spot to ask if I’d actually pick the Bears and I said no way. So there you go.

Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 28, Bears 21.

Dolphins at Jets

Florio’s take: This game would have been one of the biggest of the weekend, if the Dolphins hadn’t bungled their game against the Browns in Week 13. The Fins could have been 7-5, playing for a chance to narrow the gap for the No. 6 seed with the Jets to one game with three to play. As it stands, it’s still a very important game, with the Jets needing to shrug off a 45-3 debacle on a short week. If the Pats game exposed the Jets, look for the Dolphins to take advantage of it -- especially with California boy Mark Sanchez playing outdoors again in January.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 15, Jets 10.

Rosenthal’s take: Take all the emotion and psychology out of the mix. Just look at the Jets team over the last two months. Their defense is solid, but not nearly as good as last year. Their offense looks more like their ’09 attack by the week, with an inferior running game and a slightly better passing attack. This game will be a nail-biter, and the Jets are overdue to gag a close one.

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Jets 23.

Broncos at Cardinals

Florio’s take: The Eric Studesville era begins in Denver, as the John Skelton era begins in Arizona. (If you hope to witness the full extent of both, we recommend against blinking.) Peter King’s theory regarding interim coaches continues to be validated, thanks to the quality of the latest interim coach’s first opponent.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 20, Cardinals 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The cruelest part of firing Josh McDaniels was doing it before the team faced John Skelton. Denver’s defense is awful, but it’s coming off its best game of the year. It should be able to handle a sixth-round rookie quarterback from Vince Lombardi’s alma mater. Fans will want to hit themselves with Seven Blocks of Granite after watching this one.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 30, Cardinals 26.

Chiefs at Chargers

Florio’s take: With Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel recovering from an appendectomy, the Chargers suddenly have a much better shot at making the same kind of late kick they did in 2008, when they erased a three-game deficit with three games to play.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 21, Chiefs 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Brodie Croyle is a quality backup, but he’s scaring me from picking an upset. Still, Oakland gave Kansas City a template last week for beating the Chargers by manhandling their defensive front seven. Philip Rivers needs to bounce back after an oddly terrible performance last week filled with misfires.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 31, Chiefs 26.

Eagles at Cowboys

Florio’s take: The Cowboys are playing like they should have been playing all year, and they seem to take delight in throwing a wrench into the playoff fortunes of their foes. What better team to mess with than the Eagles, whose high hopes were dashed by Dallas in back-to-back weekends last year? Sure, the Eagles have a different (and better) quarterback this year, but he ‘Boys know a thing or two about taking the best that Mike Vick has to offer and still beating him. Look for the same thing to happen on Sunday night.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 24.

Rosenthal’s take: If not for the Cowboys, Donovan McNabb might still be Philadelphia’s quarterback. The real issue Dallas exposed last year was Philly’s offensive line, which can still occasionally look shaky. Dallas no longer has the pass rush to make a difference, though, and Michael Vick is a massive upgrade from McNabb. This is the type of cutting edge analysis you can only get at PFT.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 34, Cowboys 27.

Ravens at Texans

Florio’s take: The Ravens go from facing one of the best defenses in the league to one of the worst in the league’s history. It’ll feel sort of like running in bare feet after shedding a pair of cement shoes. In the end, the Texans’ playoff hopes will be sleeping with the fishes.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 34, Texans 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Texans are quietly playing better of late. They stormed back against the Jets, handled the Titans easily, and showed an improved effort on both sides of the ball in Philly despite the final score. Houston has the offense to give Baltimore’s secondary problems, which will just set up the Texans defense to make fourth quarter mistakes in a barn-burner.

Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 30, Texans 28.